As trade talks approach, Brazil seeks Latin American unity
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu May 1 08:56:53 MDT 2003
Brazil's Silva Wants Unified Latin Region
By Harold Olmos, Associated Press Writer - Tue Apr 29, 3:27 AM ET
BRASILIA, Brazil - Pushing regional economic integration, Brazil's
president met with his Bolivian counterpart in the latest summit
highlighting the growing influence of South America's largest
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Monday that he and Bolivian leader
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada agreed to improve roads and bridges to
boost trade between the neighboring nations.
Silva, who has met with the presidents of Colombia, Peru and
Venezuela in the past month, will get visits in May from the leaders
Uruguay and Ecuador in the Brazilian capital.
Experts say the flurry of activity is a message to the United States:
A united South America will negotiate hard over terms of a proposed
Free Trade Area of the Americas trade zone.
The United States and Brazil will spearhead the negotiations to
create the 34-nation bloc stretching from Alaska to the southern tip
Brazil and other South American countries have repeatedly said that
FTAA negotiations won't go far unless the U.S. makes commitments to
reduce tariff barriers on agricultural products such as orange juice
Silva, a former union leader known for his negotiating skills with
multinational firms, wants by December to merge two current Latin
trading blocs - Mercosur and the Andean Community.
Mercosur is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as
members. Bolivia and Chile are associate members. The Andean grouping
is made up of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
"If he (Silva) assembles the Andean nations and Mercosur into one
trading bloc, Brazil and its neighbors certainly will have better
bargaining power," said David Fleischer, a political science
professor at the University of Brasilia.
Despite his status as Brazil's first leftist leader and a friendship
with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Silva has made efforts to show he is
willing to work with Washington.
He met last week with Treasury Secretary John Snow, who praised
members of Silva's fiscally moderate financial team for dealing with
the country's economic problems.
Many investors feared Silva would enact unorthodox economic policies
that could lead Brazil to default on its massive foreign debt like
its southern neighbor, Argentina. Since Silva's Jan. 1 inauguration,
those concerns have evaporated.
The presidential meetings between Silva and other South American
leaders also appear designed to give Brazil a higher profile on the
international front. Silva said over the weekend that the United
Nations should be reformed.
He said the Security Council should be expanded beyond the current
five permanent members - United States, the United Kingdom, France,
Russia and China.
The visits to Brazil also show that Silva, the country's first
elected leftist president, has a more aggressive approach on
international relations than his predecessors.
Traditionally Brazil has been timid in conducting foreign affairs,
but Silva has given a great emphasis to Latin America" since taking
office, Fleischer said.
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